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to get up to Mount Pisgah, and take a distant view of their future inheritance; and at other times they are permitted, with Abraham, as it were, to walk through it, and hear God Almighty say, “ This is the land which I will give thee for an inheritance.” Let us then anticipate the joyful time when we shall dwell there for ever. Let us rejoice in every victory that we gain over our spiritual enemies ; and in every day's journey that brings us to its borders. Let us be often sending messengers to discover the promised land, and to bring us glad tidings, and at least one bunch of the grapes of Eshcol to cheer us in the wilderness. The glorious time is approaching, when our journey shall be ended ; when our minority will expire, and it will be our father's good pleasure to give us a kingdom. Then shall we be wholly the Lord's; and nothing occur to divert our hearts or affections. We shall be entirely, and eternally, his portion: and he will be the strength of our heart, and our portion for ever,
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago.
This is part of a very remarkable story. It is, indeed, one of the principal incidents in the life of the apostle. But, before I proceed any further, let me congratulate you, my fellow travellers, on our meeting again, on the commencement of another year of our transitory lives. Methinks we are like persons that have climbed some steep and slippery precipice, which exposed their lives to the most imminent danger. Since we have, almost miraculously, gained the summit, let us pause a little to look round us, and drop a tear to the memory of the friends who are missing. Some of them, indeed, were old and infirm; they were tired almost as soon as they set out upon this year's journey, and were glad to lie down where the weary are at rest. Others, with all the sprightliness and vigour of youth, pushed on above half the way; but they suddenly disappeared, to the grief and amazement of all their acquaintance. We, that are alive, inust acknowledge, that we owe not our lives to our prudence in avoiding distempers, nor to the skill of the physician in curing them, nor
to the soundness and strength of our constitution : It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed.
Various reflections occur at the beginning of a year. Some will be considering how many years old they now are; others will be inquiring how many years they have been in trade; others, again, how inany years they have lived in such a town, or in such a particular house. But I now call you to an inquiry infinitely more important than either of these or any other can be. How many years have you been in Christ? More important indeed.---For it matters not how long you have lived in the world; if you have not been born again, and do not live by faith on the Son of God, it had been better if you had never been born. It signifies nothing how long, or how successfully, you have carried on your business ; if you have not found the Pearl of Price, you are only mise. rable bankrupts and beggars. It matters not where you have spent your time; if you be not in Christ, wherever you have lived, you have only cumbered the ground. As many of you have, perhaps, never made the inquiry, I sincerely pray that you may now be convinced of its importance. I shall rejoice if you should begin to think of it in earnest; and lay such a foundation this day, that if you should live so many years from this time, you may adopt the words of the Apostle, and say, “ I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago.”
These words might afford matter of nice and curious speculation. But as my object is not to amuse, but to instruct and improve you, I shall refrain as much as possible from what is abstruse and fanciful, to make room for what is more plain and profitable,
No man was more remote than the Apostle from boasting. Yet, he found it necessary in order to vindicate his apostleship, to declare publicly, the honour which God had put upon him, beyond what any mere man had before, or has since attained. “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago ; whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell ; God knoweth. Such an one was caught up to the third heaven, and beard unspeakable words; which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
From this extraordinary story, many useful and important observations arise. It shows us, for example, that the soul is distinct from the body, and capable of a separate existence; otherwise there could have been no ground for the Apostle's uncertainty. We hence also learn, that we may know the certainty of a matter, when we cannot account for the manner and circumstances of it. Paul was sure of his being in the third heaven, though he could not tell how he went thither ; nor whether he was in the body, or out of the body. There are mysteries in nature which perplex the understanding; and it should not sure prise us, that there are such in religion.
We might also infer, from this account, that though God discovers not all things to us which might gratify our curiosity, he is willing that we should know what is necessary for our improvement and comfort. Paulknew that he was in Christ, though he was doubtful as to matters of inferior consequence. And if we know that, though we should be kept in ignorance of many other things, we may well be contented and thankful.
But what I have more immediately in view, is the term of yeurs which the Apostle here mentions. “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago." Though with great humility he speaks of himself as of another person, it is evident that he took great delight in recounting the time that he had been in Christ; and considered it as his honour and advantage, that he was no raw, inexperienced Christian, or minister. I shall hence take occasion, first to inquire, what it is to be in Christ; and then to show, how comfortable it must be, for Christians of some standing, to consider how many years they have been thus united to him.
I. What is it to be in Christ?
Those who never read their Bibles, or who are strangers to experimental religion, may, perhaps, be offended at the very expression. “Whoever heard,” say they, “ of servants being in their master, of disciples being in their Lord, of creatures being in God?” If the Apostle had not positively asserted, that he knew a man in Christ, they would hardly acquit me of rashness and profaneness for using such language. But those who are conversant with the sacred writings, know that it is a phrase frequently used, and that it has two common and very
First, there is a being in Christ by outward profession :
I mean, when persons are called by his name, and have visibly entered into his service, though their hearts be not really devoted to him, or were never renewed and sanctified by him. This belongs to all who receive Christian baptism, and do not openly